Where the Evangelical Church Went Wrong (part 1)

The evangelical church has lost its way in the last 25 years. It began in the mid-50s when the Prosperity Gospel and Word of Faith movement seeped into its midst; I believe this was the forerunner of what we are currently seeing. The current state of evangelicalism is one of selfishness, callousness, judgmentalism, condemnation of others, and outright rebellion against the teachings of scripture. What is happening now in these churches is driving people away from fellowship and even faith as they decide if God supports these kinds of actions, attitudes, and ideals, they don’t want anything to do with Him or those who call themselves His people.

I’ve been involved in church since I was six weeks old. I had what evangelical Christians call a conversion experience in 1974 when I was 14 years old. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit less than six weeks later. My faith gave me the strength to endure an abusive childhood, being molested by my stepfather, and a violent first marriage. It helped me through 15 years as a single mother. Prayer, attending church regularly, and some bending hours in the Bible every week was the cornerstone of my life for over 30 years. So, what happened?

In the mid-to-late 90s, I started realizing the magnitude of the divide between people with power in the evangelical church and those who supported them. Instead of being a servant, the pastor was seen as the ultimate authority. If you attended Brother So-and-So’s church, you’d better not ever be heard speaking out against anything he said or you would face admonishment, correction, or discipline. They rationalize this by misquoting Psalm 105:15, which tells us not to touch God’s anointed. Taken in context, this verse refers to the entire body of believers, not just pastors and their cohorts. Unfortunately, in the evangelical church this has led to an attitude that you cannot question leadership, prophets, or anyone in a position of authority without risking the wrath of God. This attitude fails to recognize that we are all are sinners, prone to mistakes and deliberate errors, and we are not above correction regardless of where we are in the hierarchy of the church:

In addition, the undercurrent of the Prosperity Gospel and Word of Faith movement became more prominent as time progressed. What began with the minor distortion of Luke 6:38 became a full-fledged perversion as things progressed from God blessing you because He’s good and wants to bless you to God blessing you because He’s obligated to do so based on how much money you put in the offering or what ministry support. People who embrace this false doctrine forget there are many passages in the Bible talking about our obligation to minister to the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and to not treat the rich as if they are better than the poor — because wherever we are, it’s in God’s will for us to be there. I actually heard several pastors over the years tell you if you’re poor, it’s because you’re not giving enough money to the church. If you’re sick, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. If your loved one dies, either they weren’t faithful enough, or you neglected to do something right. The gospel as they believe it has become one of works, not faith. It is no longer the good news for all people, but a transactional relationship, kind of like putting quarters in a vending machine and getting a bag of chips. That’s not how God works.

Another thing I find concerning is their lack of empathy/sympathy, compassion, and caring for those who are struggling. Their token answer for just about any situation has become, “Place it at the foot of the cross and walk away.” They seem unaware, either deliberately or otherwise, not everything can be resolved in that way. The church should be a resource for the homeless, the hungry, abused, neglected, lonely, and struggling. It should be actively working to help these people is a way of showing the love of Jesus to a lost and dying world, but they seem to have forgotten this mandate in favor of promoting their twisted version of the good news.

I specifically remember a certain pastor saying his goal was to have his parking lot full of luxury cars, not clunkers. My question is this: if, as it says in Luke 5:31, “…it is not the healthy who need doctors, but the sick,” why do they only want rich people in their churches? That’s like sending healthy people to the hospital and telling sick people to stay home. If we don’t welcome and embrace the struggling to show them the love and hope found in our faith, what makes it any better than a country club or bar? If the offering on Sunday doesn’t go to bless the poor, but instead lines the pastor’s pocket or helps the church build a new multi-million-dollar edifice for their rich parishioners, what good does that do the community at large? How does it fulfill the great commission? What is the good news if it’s not the message that Jesus can meet you wherever you are and help you regardless of your circumstances? Where is the hope in that kind of gospel?

As it embraced the Prosperity Gospel, the Word of Faith movement, and now Dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation, the evangelical church has become nothing more than a members-only club where the rich gain more wealth and the poor stay that way. They can never get ahead because they’re being encouraged to give every penny to people who don’t need the money or the help. Offerings aren’t being put into meeting the needs of the suffering, but instead going to increase the prosperity and elitism of those in power within evangelicalism. It is, in a way, a form of hypocrisy, because it violates the principles of compassion, giving, sacrifice, service, and looking to God to provide us with what we need instead of making a list of what we want and asking God to give it to us. To suggest we can demand something from God because we tithe and give offerings is heretical at best. Judging people because of what they have instead of loving them because God created us all is no better than what the world does. How are we showing our love for our neighbor by putting our own wants before their needs? How many of these pastors are taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly but refusing to help their own members in need of assistance with rent, groceries, or medical bills? Requiring hungry people to sit through a two-hour church service in order to get groceries to feed their family isn’t compassionate or charitable. Telling people who are financially struggling they need to get another job instead of helping them with their rent doesn’t show the love of God.

The evangelical church is sick. A cancer has invaded part of the body of Christ, and it needs to be excised. Unless they are willing to repent and change their ways, there is no hope for restoration or redemption. I hate to say that, because I used to be one of them and it was an essential part of my life for many years, but there it is. I no longer identify as evangelical because I cannot support what they believe, how they act, or where they’re headed. It’s sad, because they have the potential to be a force for good in the world.